On the second day of my arrival in Xiamen I had to take a taxi to go to the other side of the island. My first experience from Xiamen airport to software park, the day before, was a bit shocking. Now, you must know that I’m not easily shocked in cars, they are my ‘natural habitat’, I love driving. So, I’ve had, to put it mildly, quite some mileage, driving cars. I won’t go into all the details, but I got quite some racing experience from my time as a taxi driver myself, as a student.
So after judging my first taxi ride in Xiamen, I thought I just had a coincidental encounter with one of Xiamen’s roughest taxi drivers…. After my second ride, I had to re-assess. The first driver wasn’t that rough. Only on my second day in Xiamen however, the third taxi driver put some thoughts into my mind that if I would keep looking at traffic in Xiamen from a ‘European perspective’, I would not make it till the end of the month.
So I stopped judging, started to relax and enjoying the rides. While examining my feelings – and I can tell you I have never in my whole lifetime spend so much time in taxi’s as this last 4 weeks – I thought it would be a good idea to change my mind. To shift perspective, I had to look for another metaphor on Xiamen traffic.
Somewhere on the road, it hit me. I should not look at the road as it being concrete, being tarmac; I should see the water….
Traffic in Xiamen is like sailing. The road in front of you is like a river. And my taxi driver is the captain of his own sailing vessel, just following the current, keeping the flow. When you look at the street as a river, you’ll notice driving lanes slowly disappearing. After a while, they just are not there anymore… Nobody bothers about them. People crossing the street are like small rocks in the river, just don’t hit them, they could leave scratches.
Then slowly, after some more taxi rides, you’ll be recognising open spaces between the vessels as spots where the current is most favourable, where you can hoist your sails a bit more and take up some speed.
Use the whole river, look ahead, zigzag between the open spots and never stay behind another vessel too long, you could catch some bad wind. Since there’s this one rule, which is so very obvious and simple, everybody can handle a vessel on the rivers of Xiamen. ‘Do not hit another vessel – or those small rocks on the way’ gives you all the freedom to zigzag the river as you please. Any traffic behind or next to you will ease their sails or even change their bearing if necessary. The captain of every vessel has, in the end, always the possibility to protest, just like in a real sailing regatta. The only difference on the streets of Xiamen is; they don’t have flags, they honk. Keep honking and eventually your opponent will change his course.
So, these days, I just love sailing the streets of Xiamen 🙂
“Be water my friend.
Empty your mind.
Be formless, shapeless, like water.
Now if you put water in a cup, it becomes the cup.
If you put water in a bottle, it becomes the bottle.
You put it in a teapot, it becomes the teapot.
Now water can flow…
or it can crash…
Be water my friend.”